In the era of AI “smart” tech and the psychosocially engineered dimming of human intelligence, it is not an understatement to say that the bottleneck of information processing is being relegated farther and farther away from human agency and oversight. Just a brief look into the formation of Technocracy Incorporated in 1933 will show that the scientific dictatorship envisioned by Howard Scott has wholly ensconced itself within what we call the “modern” times. We need to look no further than its 21st century revival under Parag Khanna’s utopian configurations of a new world techno-state. At the start of his 2017 article in Project Syndicate he argues that “Instead of obsessing about the degeneration of democracy at the hands of demagogues, we must define a form of government that can address the grievances that have fueled populism’s rise. Such a system should combine the virtues of democracy – that is, voter input – with the utilitarianism and realism of genuine expertise.” Sounds great. Who could possibly disagree with such an well-respected, “expert” opinion? Surely those who are the most acquainted with and absorbed by the powers of technology are the best qualified persons to lead everyone down the primrose path to progress as we all embrace (without any notable resistance it seems) the pervasive and sophisticated mechanisms of the machine age? Right?
As the reader is well aware, there is this a saying about the paving material used on the road to hell that seems to have evaded the minds of modern technocrats and their highfalutin schemas and monomaniacal worship of effectiveness and efficiency.
One can certainly point to states like Singapore as a veritable incubator for a technocratic “governance” as an ostensibly “successful” model for (smaller) states going forward. Added to this is the widely held and commonsensical recognition that it is easy to defend the general advantages of having specialized forms of knowledge in the form of trained personnel making decisions that are broadly considered well-informed based on available data. However, this renewed push to essentially coronate those who have such specialized knowledge does not on its own entail a justiciable ordering of public affairs nor does it acknowledge any essential or necessary representative mechanisms for making macro-level decisions that involve millions upon millions of people. Herein lies the danger: the more the general public adopts advanced technology (and its new technocratic priests) the more likely the essential attributes of our humanity will be treated as just another assortment of data points, as just another catalog of inert information waiting to be efficiently and effectively itemized by those who develop and proliferate the technology, perhaps to the point of our own obsolescence. The oft-used charge of “dehumanization” as a calling card term for the kinds of pernicious developments that seek to dismiss the needs of humankind is too milquetoast in itself, too soft of a word to describe the cataclysmic effects that unfettered “adoption” of AI and technetronic instrumentation will produce if left unchecked.
Heidegger’s conceptual treatment of technology is increasingly prescient today even though he only started formally writing about it (somewhat scarcely) late in his career. He points out that the “techno-thinking” enmeshed in the modern mind of humanity is not reducible to a neutral necessity or merely a means-to-an-end process for achieving objective aims or satisfying material needs–even though that’s what the popular conception about technology, guided by the common utilitarian-pragmatist mindset, would have us summarily conclude.
Quite differently, Heidegger emphasizes that what situates technology as such a seminal focus in modern times is the fact that while it is a conduit for revealing new possibilities, such possibilities revolve virtually entirely around considering the world (which includes our corporeal self) as an untapped slag heap or an unused stock pile that is supplied in its entirety for our insatiable desire to produce for the sake of producing. He cites the conventions within the material sciences that deploy mechanistic perceptual impositions onto reality as a problematic orientation towards the natural world. What is more, these perceptual impositions are not only relatively newfound in the modern epoch, they may in fact subvert our higher order capacities as conscious beings and may ultimately prove detrimental to our collective destiny.
Most critical treatments of Heidegger’s stance on technology frame his insistence–that unimpeded technological advancement will ultimately result in a disastrous desolation that will force people to reacquaint themselves with a deeper form of revelatory appreciation of their own being and natural existence–as a form of cynical pessimism that fails to appreciate the “liberatory” potentials of technological advancements. But I think that Heidegger is accurate about the ‘foreignness’ of the compulsion behind “technicity”. There are unavoidable spiritual consequences relating to the mystical fixation modern society has for accelerating the advance of tech developments which continues to unfold before our eyes. A brief look at the DARPA projects of the past 20 years demonstrate this dangerous propensity within human consciousness. With such resources and intelligence being extended to these stark robotic endeavors, how can we not admit that such technological development, if not reversed or halted, could have a deleterious, engulfing influence on our very existence?
The sheer number of apocalyptic films featuring killer robotics numbers in the dozens. Yet the presence of real “terminator” automatons shows us that the predictive programming surrounding the catastrophic potentials of lethal technological proliferation is so pervasive it resembles a new religion of sorts. Both transhumanism and techno-mysticism stem from the rise of technicity and technocratic aspirations. The etymology of Apocalypse means to “lift the veil”. We must ask ourselves, is the human fascination with ominous technological progress connected to our long history of eschatological consciousness? It is no longer farfetched to assert that the extent to which the upper echelons of human society become enamored with technological power over the masses the more likely it is that they are conjuring apocalyptic-cataclysmic forces within the world. These multi-disciplinary, ponerological interconnections are worth studying further since trillions have been invested within military projects and policies guided by people who do in fact adhere to ideologies that support supremacist End Times prophecies.
Where does this all lead us? To begin to address this question, I like to employ a neologism courtesy of yours truly that seeks to summarize these ideological intersections as it relates to our current system. Since it is demonstrable that the social ordering across the world conforms to both oligarchical corporatocracy and cleptocratic technocracy operating under various euphemistic-nominalistic guises like “democracy” or “free market capitalism” or “social welfare” we can correctly call such a system, at bottom, a Ponerocracy: a governing body whose power is derived from evil as such. Alas, the greek root poneros-kratos gives us Rule of Evil. Even the newly revived term kakistocracy doesn’t go far enough; those who have access to the cleptobudgets that power the advancement of AI and lethal robotics aren’t just “stupid” nor “unqualified” nor are they merely “bad” because they make deleterious decisions as a result of their poor governance or mere incompetence. Evil implies premeditated intention to do harm but as we mentioned earlier, the road to hell–which is the abode of evil–is paved with good intentions. Thus, the machinations of evil are not confined to the determination of malevolent actors to commit wrongdoing; rather, evil can also result from the sheer momentum of unconscious occurrences surrounding ideas, platitudes or consensuses that we notionally or nominally accept as good. Anyone who thinks that all these ominous developments vis-a-vis killer robotics, AI, quantum computing, Internet of Things, etc, are the result of mere curiosity or ameliorative innovation in an attempt to “help the world” and “solve our problems” is resorting to a form of naive realism that is actually complicit in the evil embedded within these developments. In this case, ponerocracy incorporates kakistocracy and pathocracy under one roof. These apocalyptic ethnosupremacists who want to usher in a neofeudal technetronic era can only be considered “the worst” because there is a destructive compulsion that is diabolical, both consciously and unconsciously, to the core. This is evidenced by the abundance of policies, procedures, protocols and practices that compromise, denigrate and eradicate life as a matter of course, as a mere “pragmatic” measure to accomplish the goals of the ponerocracy. What are the goals of this ponerocracy? No less than to ensnare men and women of good will into abandoning or sacrificing their own good-hearted natures and high-minded destinies with a panoply of ideological discouragement from all sides in the form of diversionary, ephemeral substitutions that confine and stunt mankind’s consciousness to a materialized, bastardized simulacrum of reality.